CreativeComms, the Hatch Act, and the 2020 elections

Transcript: 

Hello, I'm Larry Gillick. Welcome to this creative comms session on the Hatch Act. If you've seen the emails, you've probably heard this story before, but I'm going to share it with you anyway. Once upon a time, I was at my local post office and true story here.

There was a person behind the counter who was wearing a campaign T-shirt. It was an election year. I found myself asking out loud, quietly too quietly to be any use to anyone. "Wow. Don't they have the Hatch Act here?" It was not taken well.

I asked myself what am I supposed to do in this circumstance. I'm not the fed who's wearing the T-shirt. Does the Postal Service even count? I think they do but I didn't work for the Postal Service. What did I know? We've got another probably interesting campaign coming up. I hear lots of offices will be at stake. I don't do things with campaigns or politics.

Fortunately, we have Scott de la Vega and as is our tradition, I'm going to read a little about him. Here it goes. "Scott de la Vega will serve as both the director and departmental ethics office and designated agency ethics official, and our authority on stuff having to do with that next year.

"Prior to joining the department, Scott de la Vega served for several years in various senior legal positions at the White House, including as ethics counsel to the Vice President in the office of the White House Counsel as well as Managing Counsel for Operations in the Executive Office of the President.

"In these roles, he oversaw the ethics review and financial disclosure clearance process for all White House officials, directly counseled senior White House staff, cabinet officials and nominees seeking Senate confirmation. He formulated administration policy on ethics issues and recruited the best ethics lawyers from across the government."

You wrote this. He's an ethical guy. This is what it means, he's an ethical guy, "And recruited the best ethics lawyers from across the government while increasing diversity. In his White House role, he also worked directly with senior leadership across the executive branch, including the Office of Government Ethics and the Office of Special Counsel.

"Prior to White House, Scott served in leadership positions and other federal agencies as Vice President and Senior Counsel, at two Fortune 500 corporations, as well as both a trial and appellate criminal litigator in the US Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps." I'm going to trust him to give us good advice. That's about all I have to say on the subject.

Scott, welcome. This is our first I think ever creative comms session on the Hatch Act. Go to it, it's all on you.

Thank you, Larry. I appreciate it. Do you know how to work the mic? Waiting on the mic is [inaudible 2:42] . Can you hear me? OK.

I'd like you to imagine for a moment that you walk into your supervisor's office, and you've just applied for a promotion. You're excited he asked you to go in. He asked you to sit down. He tells you, "I'm sorry. You're not going to get the position that you've applied for. You're not going to get that promotion, because you're a Republican or you're a Democrat." How would that make you feel?

Let's say imagine that you go into his office, and you're doing a good job. You're a good employee. Your supervisor says, "You know what? I don't like your politics. I overheard you talking at lunch one day to some fellow employees, and I don't like your politics. You're fired."

Or your supervisor tells you, "You're going to get a bonus this year, but there's a catch. I expect that 50 percent of your bonus -- this is the deal that we're going to have - 50 percent of your bonus you've got to contribute to this presidential candidate or that senate candidate. Is that cool?"

It's pretty outlandish is what it is. It is not the way we do things in America, but for most of the history of this country it was. It is the sort of thing that we think of when we think of corrupt nations on the planet and nations that don't have our laws, our advanced civil service laws. For much of our history those sorts of actions were legal.

In fact, here at the Department of the Interior...The establishment of the Department of the Interior was delayed for some time back in 1849, because the passage of the legislation to create the department was put on hold in Congress, because many were concerned that the new department would have too many political patronage post for the incoming weak administration.

A few years later in 1883, we passed the Pendleton Act. We got a professionalized civil service or the start of one at least where we have the elements of a merit-based system in civil service. That's a good thing.

It's a good start, but you fast forward to 1939, actually to 1938. The election of 1938, FDR is up for re-election, and he has a Works Progress Administration Administrator who is doing what?

One of the examples I just gave is handing out jobs based on political patronage, and then was also asking people to pay for contributions to certain candidates. Lots of corruption like this, if they wanted to keep their jobs. That was 1938.

There was a senator by the name of Carl Hatch and many others in the Congress who determined that, "Enough of this. We are better than this, and we cannot have this kind of activity." FDR himself, soon got onboard and realized that it was best to outlaw this activity.

A year later in 1939, we have the passage of what we know of now as the Hatch Act. Very important for obvious reasons. We've professionalized the civil service, passed the Hatch Act.

The Supreme Court for many years throughout those decades after 1939, had an opportunity to speak on the constitutionality of the Hatch Act because, of course, many federal employees say, "Wait a second here. What about my First Amendment rights? My constitutional rights to speak and to associate with who I want to."

Legitimate questions, and those went to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has upheld the Hatch Act on numerous occasions. Then we get to 1993, and that is when we had the Hatch Act reform amendments.

What that did was Congress in their wisdom determined that, we can still achieve the goals of the Hatch Act of having a nonpartisan professional civil service that is not infected with partisan politics, but we can allow federal employees, certain federal employees, to participate in a little bit more in politics on their own time after work outside of federal buildings.

The '93 Hatch Act amendments were passed, and that allowed for some more certain employees to participate in political campaigns, and partisan political management. We're going to talk today a little bit about who can do what, when it comes to the Hatch Act. We've already talked about a little bit about why it matters to you.

One of the things that I want to make sure that you understand, is that, unlike ethics rules and ethics laws that you get in your annual ethics training, you learn all about those laws and those apply to essentially all federal employees in the same or very similar manner.

With the Hatch Act, this is an important question, who is covered by the Act? Really important question, because there are different categories of employees when it comes to the Act. We've got further-restricted employees and less-restricted employees. Then we have some pass officials. What are all these terms?

Let's explain them briefly, but only briefly because what I want to focus on today is what is going to impact most, I'd say 98 percent of Department of Interior employees. I'm not going to get into the specialized rules, the little niche rules for certain employees. Let's talk about them really quickly for a moment.

The Hatch Act puts into a separate category certain employees called further restricted. Who is in that category? That bucket of employees, career assessors. That is that professional core of very senior managers throughout the federal government. Their job is to continue running the federal government during the transition of administrations.

Obviously they're at the very senior ranks just below the politicals who run the actual agencies. Career assessors, we don't want them engaged in partisan politics. In many ways they do have constitutional rights. We'll talk about that in a little bit so that they can engage and do certain things on their own time, outside of the federal building but that's one bucket.

Administrative law judges, they are also in that bucket of further restricted. Law enforcement officers at certain law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies, they're in that further restricted bucket. Law enforcement, certainly law enforcement agencies, those individuals, the Hatch Act applies to them differently.

They cannot participate as much in partisan political campaigning or management as other federal employees. Then we have a very small category of pass-officials under the Hatch Act who are carved out, what are pass-presidentially appointed Senate confirmed.

Those are the very senior officials who a president, newly elected president comes in and sends to the Senate for their confirmation. Those are the individuals who carry out the policy of a new president.

Those pass officials along with about hundred individuals at the White House and the executive office of the president, those are what we call the APs, the Assistants to the President, DAPs, the Deputy Assistants and the Special Assistants, those 100 people.

Those are also in a separate category under the Hatch Act meaning that they get to participate in partisan political activity while at work, in a federal building to a very limited extent. The rules apply to them slightly differently.

We'll talk a little bit today about why that is. We know generally that elections have consequences. One of those is that a new president comes in, different policy orientation, different ideology and so they get to put people in policy-making positions that are going to be in line with their philosophy. That's OK.

The Office of Special Counsel and Congress through the Hatch, I could've said "These individuals we will allow them certain amount, very limited amount of partisan political activity while on duty." That's who's covered by the Hatch Act, all of you as executive branch employees.

Who's not covered? The judicial branch is not covered. The legislative branch is not covered. You see the capital up there, just the executive branch, the executive branch being obviously the branch that executes, implements the laws. It's just the executive branch. All executive branch employees are covered in different ways as we just discussed except two individuals.

Larry, can you guess what two individuals are not covered?

Two individuals. The two individuals in the Pale House at the block.

That's right.

[laughter]

The Pale House at the block, the president and the vice president. They are not covered by the Hatch Act. That's really important because a lot of people think and they get this a little bit confused. They see the president out there on a daily basis. This president, previous presidents speaking and engaging in quite partisan speech sometimes.

They go, "Well, if the president as the head of the executive branch can say that, I'm in the executive branch and the Hatch Act applies to it all, well then of course I can do it." That's so...no it is not. It is absolutely not the case. The president and the vice president are not covered by the Hatch Act. Everybody else in the executive branch are covered under separate rules.

Any questions about that, the different categories whose covered...What does partisan political activity mean? We have to discuss this because this is the basis for what you can and cannot do as a federal employee under the Hatch Act.

What is partisan political activity? It is any activity directed toward the success or failure of a partisan political candidate, party or organization. Candidate, candidate Smith running for the US Senate or for president. Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party.

Greens, libertarian, these are parties that have put people up electors for presidential elections. Those are parties. Organizations, we know all kinds of organizations. PACs, political action committees. Those are big organizations that are partisan political organizations.

Any activity that is directed toward the success or failure of any of those entities. Is speech an activity? Yeah, it is. Is an email an activity? Yeah. Is the wearing of a shirt, a T-shirt, or putting on a button, or putting bumper stickers on our cars? Yes.

We're going to get into all of these different scenarios but it's really important to understand that activity, the very definition of partisan political activity is very broad. What is not partisan political activity? Policies, discussion of policies. A lot of people get this confused.

A lot of federal employees get this confused because it's understandable. We often associate certain policies with certain partisan candidates or organizations. For instance, if we talk about abortion, very sensitive topic. A discussion of abortion in the federal workplace. Is that a violation of the Hatch Act? No, it's not. It's policy.

Discussion of the Affordable Care Act, broad legislation. That's not a violation of the Hatch Act or gun rights, the Second Amendment. If there's a heated discussion going on about that in the federal workplace, is that a violation of Hatch Act? No. These are policies and broad discussions that may be affiliated in our minds with certain political parties or candidates.

Immigration, that's not partisan political activity, they're issues. It's very important to get that as a basis for our discussion today, about what the Hatch Act prohibits and doesn't.

We need to know what partisan political activity is. What is every Department of Interior employee allowed to do when it comes to partisan political activity? I want to get this out front really quick.

When we talk about the Hatch Act because there are always in these discussions, these sessions, some people who go, "Looking at that fellow up there, and what he is saying I don't like, because I feel like it's infringing on my constitutional rights. I think it's infringing on my First Amendment rights."

It's a newsflash. As federal employees, your rights, your First Amendment rights are cabined off a little bit. They are limited more than Joe Citizen out on the street. Except that, that is a condition of your employment as a federal employee.

You have agreed as a federal employee, to come on board work in the federal workplace, and comply with our ethics laws. Comply with the Hatch Act, as well as the many other rules and regulations in the federal workplace.

Very important to understand that. Does that mean that you are giving up your real fundamental First Amendment rights to engage in partisan political activity? Not really, at all. Let's talk about what you absolutely can do before we get into what you can't.

Permitted activity. You may be candidates in nonpartisan elections. I'm going to run through this list real quick because we're going to start talking in depth about each of these. I just want to highlight this real quick. May register and vote as they choose. Let's get that clear. Everybody, as a federal employ, register and vote as you choose.

May assist in voter registration drives, may contribute money to partisan groups and candidates. No question about that. Contributing money? That's a First Amendment Act, right? Giving money to a particular candidate, you're putting your money where your mouth is, as far as your political beliefs. That's OK.

May attend political fundraisers. Not only may you attend political fundraisers, you could actually speak at political fundraisers. Political fundraisers, we're going to talk a good bit about that today. Political fundraisers, you've got to be very careful. Any time we're talking about money, we have to be very careful as federal employees. I'll explain more in a bit.

You may campaign for or against candidates. Does this look like your First Amendment rights are being infringed upon? No. Now, if for some reason you think, "Well, I know that there's certain things I can't do as a federal employee and I do feel that that's problematic, and my rights are infringed on."

I'll say it again, the US Supreme Court has opined, on a couple of occasions, that the Hatch Act is perfectly constitutional. They've looked at all angles of it and have determined that, for federal workers, there is a need. There is a necessity to have certain limitations when it comes to political speech at work.

Let's see, where's some water here? What does the Act actually prohibit? If you can go forward one on this? There are five fundamental prohibitions under the Hatch Act. We're going to discuss all five of them. One thing I'd like you to keep in mind from an organization perspective here, the first four are what we call, as ethics officials, 24/7 prohibitions.

That means that, as a federal employee, you can never do these things. For example, prohibition number one, you may not use your official authority or influence to interfere with, or affect the result of an election. 24/7, you can never do this. That's a little bit out there. What does that mean? Well, let's talk about it.

You do not use, ever, your official title or position while engaged in political activity. If you are after work outside of a federal building, federal property, you are attending a political fundraiser, do you wear your badge from work where everybody can look at it and see that, "Oh, you're a federal employee." Do you walk around the fundraiser with that badge on? No.

You're telling the world, anybody who you come in contact with, "Oh, look at that. Scott's a federal employee." You're bringing the power and might of your position and your authority to that partisan political event. We don't want that. No need for that.

Your participation in partisan political activities is your personal participation that you engage in on your own time outside of work, off duty. It's a real key concept here. You can engage as less-restricted.

Remember then, 98 percent of you in the Department the Interior, less-restricted employees, you can engage in partisan political activity outside of work, outside of a federal building, federal property and off duty to your heart's content, but you've got to comply with these five prohibitions.

The prohibition on use of your official title while engaged in political activity if you are going to, for instance, be introduced at a partisan political event, you do not want anybody introducing you as, "Oh, this is Claire, from the Department of the Interior. I'd like you to meet Jim over here and Jim is going to be critical to this campaign."

No, no one should be introducing you by your official title or position. It's not important. You're there as Claire, private citizen. Not as Claire, an official with DoI.

[flipping pages]

Something that I want to direct to those of you who are supervisors, is that it is really important to be very careful as a supervisor when it comes to the Hatch Act in partisan political activity. You don't want a situation where you are ever directing one of your subordinates to engage in political activity.

Here we say, "Don't invite subordinate employees to political events, or otherwise suggest to subordinates that they attend political events, or undertake partisan political activity." This is tough and I understand.

We ethics officials and throughout the federal government, we understand that some of our employees, particularly out in more desolate areas, and we've got NPS employees at national parks, some of our beautiful national parks in far away places.

Maybe there are only two or three of you in the office, and you're friends or friendly, and it's a small community that you live in, it's real difficult sometimes to separate the superior subordinate relationship from the situation where, "Hey, they're my buddy or they're my neighbor," but you've got to, as federal employees.

If you are the supervisor, for the sake of your job, your career, you really have to because you don't want to be in a position where you're sitting next to your subordinate and you say, "Hey, Bob, I'm going to this event tonight for the US Senator for our state. It's a fund raiser. I think you should come with me."

You say that, you're violating the Hatch Act. We're going to talk about penalties, and what the ramifications are for violating Hatch Act, but that's pretty serious. We don't do that. We don't engage with our subordinates in that fashion.

Let's talk for a second about that. Under person federal personnel law, the superior subordinate relationship, is an inherently coercive relationship. How many of you feel terribly comfortable in saying, "Now we do it because we're professionals." We say no all the time to our bosses, our supervisors when we have to if they think something is a great idea, but you know it's illegal.

You know that you're going to say no, but it is tough to say to your supervisor who says, "Hey, why don't you come to this event with me tonight? It's only going to be half an hour and then afterwards we can go have a drink, or something like that."

That's going on. A lot of potential problems are there. This isn't a discussion about personnel law, but under the Hatch Act, don't invite your subordinates. We're going to talk a little bit more about this particular problem in some future slides.

Prohibition number two. Remember I mentioned there were five. Four of them are 24/7 prohibitions. Prohibition number two, "Do not solicit, accept, or receive a donation, or contribution for a partisan political party candidate, partisan political office, or partisan political group." How do we remember that and say that simply. How about this. Don't touch money.

That's a real simple way for federal employees to get this concept in their heads. When it comes to partisan politics, don't touch money. If you forget everything else that I say today, and I don't blame you if you do, but I hope you don't.

If you remember just one thing, remember this one, don't touch money. What do I mean by that? I mean that 24/7 USA federal employee cannot be involved in soliciting anyone for a partisan political contribution. Not your friends. Not your mother. Not your brother. Not your spouse.

You don't solicit others as a federal employee for partisan political contributions, ever. Not in a federal building. Not while on duty. Not while at home.

It's Saturday night. You're in front of your computer. You want to contribute yourself to your favorite presidential candidate. Sure, you go ahead and do that. That's your First Amendment right to contribute.

You press that button on the website and you go ahead and contribute to the maximum that the Federal Election Commission allows, but then you don't turn around and say to your friends who are there behind you, "Hey guys, I just contributed to candidate Smith for president. Come on. You guys do it too. Put your money where your mouth is."

You don't do that. You might say, "Gosh, that's in my own home. I can't do that?" That's right. You can't.

I hate to interrupt, but a lot of us work in Web and social media. I find myself wondering, if I took time and created a website that encouraged other people to contribute, and my time is worth this couple a hundred bucks. That's less than the amount I'm allowed to contribute to a campaign, but my work is now going to generate a lot more money for the campaign. What do I do with it?

First thing is...

I work in Web. If someone says to me, "Hey, set me up a little website that'll take contributions." "I could do that in 15 minutes. No problem." "Go." Have I just broken the law?

You could have.

Let's not do that.

You certainly could have. You'd want a situation like that, you definitely want to reach out to your ethics officials. Talk to us about it. All of these scenarios, and whether or not there's a Hatch Act violation, is all going to depend on the particular circumstances, the facts and circumstances here.

There are a number of things going on with that scenario that you're describing, that you're going to want to run by an ethics official, including the fact that it's an outside activity. You said that you were getting paid for it.

That's an issue that you'd want to talk to ethics officials about whether you can do it. In certain bureaus, you have different rules on these things. Also, just from a Hatch Act perspective, that very well could be a violation.

We want to find out exactly who you're doing that for, what particular candidate, how it's working, what your relationship is to the partisan political organization, if any. A lot of things going on there, but yes, it could be a violation.

Making personal contributions to the campaign of a partisan candidate, or to a political party, or organization, as I said, you can do that on your own. Do that all you want up to the legal maximum, but you can't have others do that. It's a really important point. Anybody have any questions about that? Do you have any questions about this issue? No?

Let's go to the next slide and see. "You can't host a political fundraiser, or collect contributions, or sell tickets to political fundraising functions." In 2020, those of you, those DoI employees who are interested in partisan politics and getting involved in partisan politics, you can do it. No one is saying you can't. You just have to do it the right way.

One of the things that you can't do, is host fundraisers, be a sponsor for a fundraiser. You would want to reach out to your ethics officials if fund raising is going to be something that you're interested in doing. If you volunteer for a campaign, and they say, "We want you on the fundraising committee."

What does that mean? Do they want you to help set up the tables at the fundraisers? Do they want you to go through donor list? You'll have to find out what that means. I strongly recommend you come to your ethics official and discuss those facts, because some of it may not be allowed. Most of it will be.

Next. We get this question a lot. On this point, a lot of this presentation, I have taken questions that Larry had put out to the Creative Coms Community, and we've got a couple of dozen questions back. We've woven those in here a good bit.

There are a few that we didn't get to, and Larry will ask in a little while, but we get this question like, "Can your spouse host a fundraiser?" So it's your house, your apartment and you know as a federal employee you can't host a fundraiser.

How do you think that would go? You come home and you say, "Honey, you got that new federal job. I love it," and everything. Your spouse is really into politics and you would tell him or her, "Oh, but you can't host a fundraiser."

They go, "What? I'm not a federal employee. You are. Maybe you can't host it. You can go watch a movie, but I'm going to have a political fundraiser here in our house." Your spouse would be absolutely right. The spouse is not covered by the Hatch Act. They can host that political fundraiser in their house.

What can you do at that fundraiser? Can you do things that make you look and act like a host? No. Absolutely not. Should you be at the door opening the door when somebody rings that doorbell, welcome them in and say, "Hey, how are you doing? This is the Smith fundraiser. Thanks for coming." Can you do that in your own house? No, you can't. That makes you look like the host.

What can you do? You're in the house. Can you stand off in the corner, eat some hors d'oeuvres, and look like a wallflower? Sure, you can. You can be present. You can be present there. But you should not be, in any way, doing anything that makes it look like you're running the show there or hosting in any way.

If there is a discussion off in the corner about various policies and politics, this is your time. You're off duty, after work hours, and you're away from federal property, you can talk partisan politics there.

You can't act or look like that host. You certainly can't be the one with the basket going around, asking people, "OK, thanks for coming to the fundraiser. You had my good hors d'oeuvres here. How about a check?"

You can't be that person. Absolutely not. Why? Because you'd be touching money, wouldn't you? That check or cash, whatever it is. We don't touch money.

Next. We get this question a lot. A lot of people, federal employees want to speak at fundraisers. Is that allowed? Certainly. You can speak at a fundraiser.

A lot of people think this is counterintuitive and they say, "Well, wait a second. Scott, you're telling me that I can't host a fundraiser, but I can actually walk into a fundraiser and speak about the candidate and their qualifications, and why they're the best person for the job?"

Yeah, you can. As long as in your speech, you do not ever solicit funds. You don't want to be that person who is up there and you're saying, "Candidate Smith is going to be the best President of the United States. That's why you've got to vote for candidate Smith. He's going to do this in regards to the environment. He's going to do this in regards to our energy policy.

"By the way, you all are politically active and you're here so let's make sure this is a successful fundraiser and give money." You can't say that last bit.

But you can say everything else. You can talk about that candidate's qualifications, why they are, in your opinion, the best person for the job, why they would make a great president. That's all good stuff. Just stop short of ever asking for money or soliciting.

You can speak at political fundraisers. Our past officials, often you will see them speaking at fundraisers and other partisan political events. A lot of federal employees get confused by the way about that.

They'll see an official in television sometimes who, a cabinet secretary, in the last administration it was a cabinet secretary who was on television in their official capacity, speaking about official topics, and on the ticker underneath that had, you know, Secretary So-and-So.

Then the reporter asked them, this was in the middle of the election, "What about the presidential campaign? Who are you going to support?" The reporter thought that was a cute question. Who would a cabinet secretary support other than their own president, right?

What did the secretary of that department do? He answered the question. He said, "Of course I'm going to support" -- this was back in the last administration -- "Well of course, I'm going to support President Obama. We think that he's got the right policies and right ideas."

Boom. Hatch Act violation. That cabinet secretary was doing that interview in an official capacity. Here he just endorsed the President of the United States, who was running for re-election.

To make it very clear, President Trump is a candidate for re-election. He made that very clear soon after becoming president back in 2017. Our current president is a candidate. Statements in support of his candidacy in the federal workplace would be a violation, just like statements in support of any of the Democratic candidates in the federal workplace, or while you're on duty.

Next. Don't invite others to political fundraising events. This includes never sending or forwarding an email invitation to political fundraisers at any time. This is the second time I think I've alluded to this issue of subordinates, and don't invite others to political events certainly not in the workplace.

We're now going to get into where we get a lot of questions, which is about social media and how things really work in this day and age. The Hatch Act was passed in 1939. For decades it was real easy for people to say, "Oh, OK, I'm in the federal workplace."

You open that door to your federal building, you come on federal property, "Whoops. I know now I can't engage in partisan politics." That was easy, "I'm on duty I'm in a federal workplace." Today, it is so much more complicated with the technology we have and with social media. We're going to start talking about some of those topics now. Larry?

Before we dive in there, let's just take one moment. It turns out we have some 218 people currently watching this online, and nobody is chatting. It's possible that people don't know how to activate the chat function. I thought I'd share that with the glitch now.

If you're live, if you're logged in and you're watching doi.gov/events, in the upper right hand corner of the screen you'll see a little word balloon looking thing like it came out of a comic strip. If you hover over, it will say, "Open chat."

Just click on it. It will open the chat. You may need to log yourself in as a guest, or some other way to get in there. You can't just walk everybody through these 218 people, but that is the way to get to the start of being able to join in and throw extra questions out.

I will note them and pass on ones to Scott that work in the part of the conversation we're up to. There you go, and back over to you, Scott.

Great. Thank you. All right. If we can go forward, Larry, to the next slide there.

All right. Wait a second. Is the third time I'm saying this question, never invite a subordinate employee to a political fundraiser. Before we had mentioned, "Never invite subordinates to political events." Now we're talking about a political fundraiser as well. That must be an important point. I'm just saying.

All right. Next. Prohibition number three, "You cannot be a candidate for partisan political office." We're not going to talk about this one a whole lot, because quite frankly we don't get a lot of federal employees who ask this question much. We do once in a while, but I want to keep this all focus today on what the most common issues that come up quite a bit.

This is an important one, we cannot be a candidate for partisan political office. Can we be a candidate for a nonpartisan political office? There are lots of localities across the country where, if you want to run for your local dog-catcher position.

I don't even know if that's a job anymore that people want, but I see it in cartoons sometimes. You want to run for your local dog-catcher position, or maybe on the local education board, the school board. Can you run for those if those are nonpartisan? Yes, you can.

You can, but if the election itself, if the election is in any way a partisan election from the perspective that you have to register for the election as a candidate under a political party, or even if you don't have to register as a candidate, but there are others who are running as a Democrat or as a Republican.

That's not going to qualify under the Hatch Act and under OSC guidance, the Office of Special Counsel that sets small federal agency that helps enforce the Hatch Act and interprets it under their rules, then that's not a nonpartisan election.

I know particularly for many of our employees in many western states, through a little local elections that they'd like to participate in, reach out to your ethics official. Let's determine whether or not it's a nonpartisan election. We did get this question actually a few months ago from someone, and we can go from there.

Next. "I can't run in a partisan election, but I can be actively involved in partisan political activity?" That's true. We've talked about that. You can be involved in partisan political activity on your own time, away from the federal workplace.

By the way, look at this beautiful. This is, I belief from the BLM website. We've got a couple of BLMers there. One of our wild horses, or burros out west, but yeah, I thought it was a beautiful picture.

Next. Now everybody knows this one. I believe was from Yellowstone. That's our fat bear. I love him. What's that?

Audience: Kenosha Park.

Where is it?

Audience: Cape Mine.

Cape Mine there in Alaska. That is a beautiful animal. What is he asking, or she? I don't know. Do either.

Audience: It's a he.

It's a he.

Audience: Of course, it is.

What is he asking? "Can I volunteer for partisan political campaigns, or political action committees?" Literarily, how pensive he is. He really wants to know this question.

[laughter]

Can he? Let's ask it. Can he volunteer for partisan political campaigns, or political action committees? Yeah, he can do it, but can he do any of that volunteering while on duty, while wearing a national park service uniform? What about a BLM uniform?

Audience: No.

No, not while wearing any uniforms, department insignia, not in any on any federal property. Can't do that. What about political action committees? Those are organizations. We're going to treat them very similar to campaigns and organizations. So yes, we know when we can volunteer and participate in those things, and when we can't.

Next slide. Little bit of a caution here. 501(c)4 organizations. A lot of you work with these organizations, particularly RMPS and BLM. These organizations, their primary purpose under the Internal Revenue Service rules and law, are to promote social welfare activities often. They're (c)4s.

Can (c)4s, engage as organizations in partisan politics? Yeah. If you're working, let's say in an official capacity with a (c)4 and you receive their emails, you just happen to get an email from them at work that deals with their promotion of a partisan political candidate or campaign, what do you do?

This is an organization, maybe you work with in your official capacity. They've just sent you this. Can you forward that to others other than your ethics official when you want to make sure that you can do this? No. You don't forward it to others if it is a partisan political email. You are on duty at work.

Forwarding partisan political emails to others, not a good idea. If it was a solicitation. Let's say the (c)4 for whatever the cause is in wildlife organization, this (c)4 is supporting a particular presidential candidate, and they say, "A little radio button. Press here to donate," and you forwarded that to your colleague, that email from a (c)4, that's a violation of the Hatch Act.

Why? Because you are soliciting someone else. You're soliciting someone else for donations for a partisan campaign, or candidate, or organization. Once again, remember what we said, we're not touching money.

Forwarding emails. We're going to talk a little bit about Twitter, Facebook and likes, and all that stuff. You've got to be real careful here. Next.

One of the folks in the chat room asks, if they've made a contribution to a partisan political campaign and they get one of those responses that says, "Share this on Facebook," and it would be something neutral like, "I just donated to Sally for Senate." Can they hit share? Can they share that on Facebook that they gave money to a campaign?

No. Let's say that again, no. They can't because what is the purpose of doing that? First of all, you're telling the world to rest of your network. We'll get into social media a little bit more in a moment.

You're telling the rest of your network, "Hey, I donated," and implicitly you're saying, "I donated and so I'd like you too as well, or I'd like you to consider donating to this candidate, or to this campaign." The whole point of those likes, of those solicitations, is to encourage others to do it, too. We've got to be real careful.

Get this, "If." As so many people do, they have their subordinates as friends, or colleagues as friends, or connections on social media. Because then what are you doing? You're violating not one, but two provisions of the Hatch Act. The solicitation provision, but also using your official authority as a supervisor to encourage your subordinate to be involved in partisan political activity. That's not a good thing.

Next, "Can I hold party office, or attend a state, or national party convention?" Yeah, you can. This again, gets to that concept. A lot of people say, "Oh gosh, I'm a federal employee. I'm giving up all my rights and I don't have my First Amendment rights anymore."

No. You hear what we're talking about, the very limited areas for good reason where you are prohibited from participating in partisan political activity, but there's so many that you can. You can hold a party office. You want to run for your local Democratic Party office? Sure.

Can you do work with that while you're at work? Of course not. Can you make calls about on while you're on duty regarding running for that office? No, you can't. Next.

"Can your spouse host a political fundraiser if you're living in federal housing?" Like maybe one of these places park rangers lives sometimes.

[laughs] I am going to tell you that if that is a situation that any of our employees are encountering, call me.

[laughter]

Call your ethics official because there are some real fine lines that we're talking about when it comes to that situation. In fact, because we have more of those situations with DoI out west with federal housing on some of our reservations, land and parks, we're actually talking with OSC to get some better clarification about those sort of things. So yeah, call us.

"Can I distribute partisan political brochures?" Sure. It's Election Day. You want to take the day off and distribute brochures for your favorite political party or candidate. As long as you're following all of the rules at the polling place.

You have to be a certain amount of feet away from things. You've got to follow the law at all times, right? That's an ethical rule that we, as federal employees, must always follow the law.

Can you hand out these brochures? Yes, you can. That's a form of speech, OK? Now, let's say you're on duty and you've got a bunch of brochures in your bag, in your purse, or your briefcase. Can you pull those out at work? You're not bothering anybody.

Your boss is over in the next room, he's not going to see, and you just go, "Hey, Jim. Here's a brochure, it's good information. You might want to vote for this person. Sally, here's a brochure."

No, we can't do that. We know that, right? OK. Next, prohibition number four. By the way, Larry, how are we doing on time?

We are at two...It's 2:55, so we did block an hour and a half for this, but I guess the quicker we get done, the quicker we open it up to just questions.

There you go, OK, so let's move. Prohibition number four, "You cannot knowingly solicit or discourage the participation in any political activity of anyone who has business pending before the DoI."

That only makes sense. My gosh, can you imagine what a corrupt government we would have if we had pay to play all the time? We are a huge regulatory agency. So many of the agencies within the DoI are business regulatory agencies. We don't think of them as such, but they are.

All of our oil regulatory and energy regulatory agencies, those are business regulatory agencies. Let's get to some examples. The first one, let's take a look at anyone with business before the DoI. Let's get to the next example there, Larry. There you go.

A DoI employee is in a meeting with a major energy company's executives reviewing their lease application for oil drilling when he says, "I hope your business plan includes contributing to the Republican National Committee if you want these leases to continue to be approved."

Sound egregious? Yeah, it does, but you know what happens -- and the reason I put this up there -- a lot of the time, is that a lot of us have good senses of humor and we think, you know when you're in your right mind that you would never say this, right? Or if you're a BOEM employee, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management deals with these leases. We know we'd never say this.

What happens when we're in a meeting, and we're with others? We let our proverbial hair down a little bit, we get comfortable with the people who are across the table from us, and it's election time. We go, "You know, you want this oil to continue going, you better vote Republican."

Maybe the employee is saying that as a joke. Do we ever joke about this sort of stuff? A little bit of a suggestion. We all like to...our spouses like us to have the sense of humor, our friends like us to have a sense of humor. Don't have a sense of humor in the federal workplace when it comes to partisan politics. Nobody appreciates it, it can be so easily misconstrued.

If in a situation like this, you're saying this to a prohibited source and entity that has business before the department, you're violating the Hatch Act. Even if you weren't saying this to a business entity, but to others in the workplace, you're violating the Hatch Act. You don't do this.

Next. I want an equal time, so let's look at an example with Democrats. A DoI employee is in a meeting with an environmental group supporting a wind energy project when she says, "This country needs to elect Democrats if we're going to have any chance of reducing carbon emissions."

Is that statement any better than the last one? No. That's a violation as well. A little point here. I'll be very careful about how I say this. What I say is because I want to separate what the law is from recommendations and suggestions.

In my experience, other than when you're teaching a Hatch Act session presentation, how often is it really necessary in the federal workplace to talk about Democrats or use the term Democrats or Republicans? Or green party or libertarians? It's really not that necessary for most of what we do.

When we're on the Hill, if we were federal employees on the legislative branch on the Hill where they don't have the Hatch Act. Unless if you're an executive branch employee and you're detailed to the Hill, does Hatch Act still apply to you? Yes, it does.

If you're on the Hill, lots of partisan policy is going on all the time. People are constantly saying, "Do you have this number of Democratic votes, or this number of Republicans on board." Happens all the time. In the executive branch, it just doesn't come up that much where you need to use those terms.

So think about it. Take a deep breath before you open your mouth and you start talking about partisan things in the workplace. Just a little suggestion. Not the law. If you mentioned Democrats and Republicans in the workplace, is that a Hatch Act violation?

Of course not. Not just mentioning them without doing any activity that furthers supports, or against a partisan political candidate organization or party. If the purpose of your speech is to do that, then you violate the Hatch Act, but if you're just talking about, "Oh, did you see the Democratic debate last night on television?" No, that's not a Hatch Act violation.

Next, "Can these Hatch Act violators be reprimanded, reduced in grades, suspended, fined up to a thousand dollars, or terminated?" Yes, they can. [inaudible 60:03] . Yes, we have one of our deputy ethics counselors for USGS back there. They absolutely can.

We've been talking about the Hatch Act a lot this afternoon, and a lot of employees out there go, "Yes. So what. People violate the Hatch Act all the time and nothing happens."

Unfortunately, that does occur on occasion. It's not the way things should be because we know why the Hatch Act is necessary and important for all of us, why the American people expect us to be nonpartisan in the executive branch, but don't take the chance.

I've got to tell you, we have got a new, expanded, robust ethics program in this department now. Lots of people are going to go to ethics officials and talk to us about the Hatch Act. We're going to advise a lot of supervisors and leaders out there about how to keep this department nonpartisan.

We're ramping up the communications on the Hatch Act. We don't want employees to get tripped up on Hatch Act violations because you can be fired. Let me repeat that one. For anybody who thinks otherwise, you can be terminated. Is it worth losing your job over silly comments, or other communications of partisan political nature? It's not.

Next. Prohibition number five. Remember we talked about, there are four 24/7 prohibitions, and then there's this one number five, which is a prohibition that deals specifically with when you're in the federal workplace, or on duty.

"You cannot engage in political activity while on duty, or on federal property, or while wearing a uniform, or official insignia, or using any federally-owned or leased vehicle." Vehicle? Really?

You're in a police car. You're a BLM officer, or a BIA officer and you're out there. There's nothing around you for 100 miles. Maybe you're on a reservation or something, "And what? I can't there, discuss partisan political activity?"

Next, "What are some of the common issues in the workplace? Photos of candidates. Photos of candidates in the workplace. Is it OK to have a picture in the workplace of President Trump and Vice President Pence." The official picture, when you walk into every federal building, it's there. Is that a violation of the Hatch Act?"

Of course not. They are the president and the vice president. That is tradition. It is required by regulation. I believe it's GSA regulation, I'm not sure, to have the picture of the president, vice president, whoever they are. That is not a violation.

Let's say that at your cubicle, or in your office, you've got a poster or a picture of President Trump. Not an official picture. You just have a picture of him there because you like it. You think it's a good picture of him. You just have that up in your desk. Is that a violation of the Hatch Act? Yes, it is. President Trump declared his candidacy for re-election.

We cannot have pictures of President Trump in the workplace other than any official picture. Same thing for the other candidates who are running for president. Is it former Vice President Biden, or Senator Sanders, or Senator Warren? Can we have pictures of them? No, we cannot. Not in the workplace. Next. Political buttons or T-shirts...

Follow-up question.

Yeah. Sure.

President hangs out with the Secretary of the Interior, gets his photo taken while doing whatever it is on a national park. That photo goes up in my hallway.

It's an official picture and different rules will apply in that situation. There are going to be some tweaks to that general rule about no pictures. We'll encourage you to come to your ethics official and ask us because we want to hear the facts and circumstances. There was, in this building, last year, last October at Halloween, someone walking around with a President Trump mask.

Went up to them, said, "Sir. That's a Hatch Act violation. Take it off now. Go home and take your mask with you. It's a Hatch Act violation." There are a lot of little scenarios where, in regards to photos, ask us about them, but you've got the general rule there. Political buttons or T-shirts. This one is real common, right? I've heard so many questions about this.

We've got a couple of questions. Somebody puts on a T-shirt, I support Senator Smith, Re-elect President Trump, or Warren for President, or something like that. Can you wear those T-shirts into work? Wait a second. You're just coming to the door of your building. You're just going to walk from the door of your building to the gym because you're going to work out in a gym with your T-shirt.

Then, afterwards you're going put on your suit. It's just a few feet. Can you walk into the federal building for a few feet with it? Oh, come on. You're telling me I can't? No, you can't because you step into that federal building with that billboard for that political candidate, and you've violated the Hatch Act. Same thing with political buttons. Screen savers with political messages.

Let's not be cute. No, you can't have that screen saver that flashes vote for this person or that. Bumper stickers. This is a question we get a lot. Bumper stickers. Is it a violation of Hatch Act to have one bumper sticker on your car of the partisan political candidate? You're going to drive and park that car in a federal building or in a federally leased building. Is that a violation?

No, it's not. No, it's not. What if you have two bumper stickers? You've got one running. Somebody's running for the Senate and somebody is running for the president. Two partisan political bumper stickers on your car. Is that a violation? No, it's not. Wait a second. You guys have seen sometimes, you see like that VW bug where they're just plastered with bumper stickers all over it.

Partisan political bumper stickers all over that. You drive that, and you park that in the federal parking lot. Is that a violation? Yes, it is. You have transformed that car into a partisan political billboard advertisement. That is different. It's a different degree here. All right. Once again, come to us if you've got questions about this, but let's be reasonable.

Partisan radio and TV programs, Fox News, MSNBC on in the workplace. Can you have them on in the workplace? You've got Fox News on. Somebody comes up to you goes, "Hey. That news organization, they're always supporting the president or Republicans." "Hey, that one. You shouldn't have that on in the workplace. They're talking about this." No, let's make it easy.

Having different news programs on, whether they be talk radio or television stations in the workplace, that is not a Hatch Act violation. Now, let me caution you. If you've got the television onto the highest volume, and it's disturbing others in the workplace, that may be a violation of other things in the workplace.

Your supervisor may come along and say you know what we're going to turn this off. We're going to lower this, but it's not a Hatch Act violation. Partisan political email. We're going to talk a little bit more about that.

Hey, Scott.

Yes, Larry?

Sorry. What about the non-news programming that sometimes feels like news?

I'm sorry. Say again.

There's some non-news programming on news channels where people talk about politics. Some are from the left, some are from the right. Some are...

Simply listening to that in the workplace, per se on its own, is not a Hatch Act violation, just like reading your favorite newspaper that might be of one political persuasion or another. That's not a Hatch Act violation. It's lunchtime. You're down here in the cafeteria, and you're reading a book, an autobiography of one of the presidential candidates. That's not a Hatch Act violation.

Partisan political email. We'll talk about in a little bit, but just a important point here is emails to other federal employees, to outside third party entities, that can be a Hatch Act violation if in the email you are engaged in partisan political activity.

If you say you need to vote for this person, or we need to rally around this party, that can be a violation and then you press send. That's the act of pressing send, you're communicating. Letters to the editor and blogs. Yes, you can do it on your own time. You don't use your official title. You don't use your official authority. Union issues. Real quick on this one.

I've given you the broad statement that you cannot...You have limitations as far as soliciting and dealing with money when it comes to partisan political activity. There are some slight, very, very slight carve outs when it comes to federal unions. I'm not going to get into it here because I don't want to confuse the issue from the general rule.

What I would say is if you are a union official who wants to solicit, come talk to your ethics officials about how to do that legally, but it has a very slight carve out.

Scott?

Yeah?

There's a Scott online who asks if these apply to contractors either in the federal workspace or if they're off in their own workplace?

Contractors are not federal employees. If you're not a federal employee in the executive branch, the Hatch Act is not going to apply to you. However, does that mean that contractors just get to come into a federal building, federal property, and do whatever they want and make it a toxic political atmosphere? Of course not.

Written into many of our contracts with contractors are rules and provisions that those contractors pursuant to contract law between them and their employers that they must comply with the rules of the federal government while on federal property.

If there is a contractor who violates rules that are applicable to all other federal employees, we'll have a discussion with the contractor's company and say, "Hey! Your employee is doing this and it's not appreciated. We don't allow this in our workplace." So not by law, by Hatch Act, but usually by contract we get to stop that behavior.

Next slide there. Let's take a look at social media. This a big one. Talking about this, official agency social media accounts. Real important issue for those of you, those DoI employees particularly you coms people who are in charge of social media accounts for the agencies, the official accounts.

Let me say this very clearly. Official communications from the agency, from a federal agency, from the DOY any of our agencies within the DoI, need to be about official matters. Partisan political activity is not an official matter. You cannot communicate via official agency, Facebook or Twitter, or Instagram or any other social media.

You cannot communicate certainly your partisan political activity, "Vote for this person or that" or "certainly not contribute to this campaign or that." You cannot misuse federal resources. This would be a federal resource using these accounts. In any way we get in the DEO here in our support of the secretary's office.

We have a very good working relationship with the communications office. They are always very sensitive to, "Oh, the Secretary was at this event. This is what he said, can we put this out on Twitter? Can we tweet this or can we put this on Instagram?"

We look at them, and almost all the time they are compliant, because these guys are smart. They know not to ever include partisan political activity. Let's say, a senior department official was at a political event last night in their personal capacity and they took a picture at that political event. They come in the next day and they go to their coms person and they go, "Hey, look at this great picture."

"Yeah, why don't I put it up on the official social media account for the agency?" Can they do that? No. That picture was not with that employee engaged in official activity. They were doing partisan political activity. You can't put that on the official agency social media account.

Next. Official title or position and personal social media. Can you? We all have personal social media, although I don't.

[laughter]

I've got one account, I won't mention which one. My wife looks at me, I use her Facebook if I need to stay in touch with friends and everything because I've never had Facebook. She thinks I'm a dinosaur, but I have my reasons.

Let's say on Facebook, you have your official title and position, or on LinkedIn, you have your official title or position right under your picture or next to your picture, or anything.

First of all, is that OK to do on social media? Put your official title or position? Yes, it is. That's the way some of these sites are set up and people want information about you, you want to give information to the world, and so that's OK.

The intersection of your job as a federal employee and your position as a federal employee and your official title and position with your personal social media can be real dangerous sometimes, so let's talk about what you can and cannot do on there.

First off, if you have a personal social media site or page that it's yours, your boss at work has not said, "Hey, go setup an official account for the agency."

This is your personal thing, but you're populating that social media site with tons of pictures from work and things that you do at work, you have our official title on there and you've got the picture of you in front of the American flag, or in uniform or something like that.

Is it illegal to do that, per se? No, but what you're doing there is you're showing the world that account could now be transformed into almost an official or quasi-official site. If you start to post things on that account. When I say things, I mean partisan political things, you could be in violation of the Hatch Act. So you've got to be careful about your system.

It is my recommendation and suggestion that one keeps their personal social media life and accounts separate from their work life to a certain extent. Can you have your official title in position? Yes, but if your account just looks completely official, then we've got problems.

A couple of years ago I was at the White House. I had a senior official there who had a personal social media account, a Twitter account. You go on that, and it looked very similar to the official White House account where this guy was in a picture in the Oval Office, and the trappings of that site looked very official.

Sometimes there were re-tweets posted on there from the official White House website and everything. When you look at that site, you would have to really investigate it for several seconds before you realized, "Oh, that's a personal site. Not a government Twitter site."

In that case, that was problematic because we had OSC call. They called me and they said, "Hey, Scott, we're concerned. This official, we just received a number of complaints. This person has just posted this very partisan political message, and the personal site looks official. Let's figure this out and get this squared away." So we had to deal with that.

Scott?

Yes?

We have 10 minutes.

OK. What is next? "May a DoI employee engage in political activity on Facebook, Twitter, or social media?" Yes. We've talked about that in your personal capacity. You may engage in that type of activity. Your First Amendment right.

"May you become a friend like or follow the social media page of a partisan political group or candidate in a partisan race?" Yeah, you can do that on your own time. You can friend them. You can like them.

"What if the page that you want to like is a solicitation of funds?" What if that page has as a radio button for donate here? You don't want to like that because if you like that, what's going to happen, that goes out to your entire network. What are you doing? You're communicating to the rest of your network to donate. You're soliciting.

If the page simply has the candidate's positions on various policies, is that OK to like that and it goes out? Yes. Be careful with this stuff. Fine lines. You don't want to trip up on it.

"While at work..." You're at work. "Can you engage in liking, or posting partisan political messages on your social media?" You're at work? No, but you're saying, "This is my personal phone and I'm sitting here in the cafeteria and I'm taking my half hour lunch break."

No you're in a federal building and you're on duty. Taxpayers are not paying you during that day for you to be engaged in your own personal partisan political activity. You want to like that? Do it after work, at home, at the coffee shop, whatever.

Next question, "Do not direct partisan messages to friends or followers who are subordinate employees." I think that's the third or fourth time I've said it. As a DoI employee you should expect and deserve to do your job and accomplish the DoI mission free of partisan political activity.

This is really important stuff. You come to work here in this building in our beautiful national parks, in our properties all over the country, all federal employees who come to work for all Americans, you don't expect to come to work, as we discussed at the beginning of this session, and expect to be bombarded, harassed by a supervisor, by others with partisan politics.

You're not here for that. Your workplace should not be full of that. This federal workplace should be some place you come to get your job done. That's what the taxpayers expect.

Before we get to the end here, Larry, do we have any questions that we have any time for that we can address for people or your own?

We have some time. In fact, we have the notes. Last year, our Hatch Act training for fire employees was not well-received. They got the impression that they were not even allowed to talk about politics at work and felt their First Amendment rights were being infringed upon. I'd like to see some clarification in our messaging about Hatch Act versus freedom of speech.

What can people talk about casually versus in an official capacity, etc.

Well, I hope that I've answered a good part of that that person's question there. They were concerned that the Hatch Act is infringing on their First Amendment rights. We've already discussed that, yes, the Hatch Act does carve out some of your rights as a federal employee. That is a condition of employment for being a federal employee.

You want the benefits of it, and you accept the job, and you're accepting that you're going to comply with the Hatch Act. I've got to say, it's not terribly burdensome to do so. Let's be very clear. You retain your First Amendment rights in such a great extent.

It is, I think, not very reasonable to think that your rights as an American, your constitutional rights are being infringed on by complying with this act. Think about it. If you're in the federal workplace, and there is lots of partisan talk going on, somebody is going to feel uncomfortable, at some point, chances are. During this administration, it might be you.

During the next administration or a past administration, maybe it's someone else. Why get involved in any of that? Let's keep partisan political activity out of the workplace. Next.

One of our colleagues in the chat room asks, "Can you retweet candidates' tweets on your own time?"

Can you retweet candidates' tweets like on your own time?

Like [inaudible 83:33] tweet? Yeah.

Yeah. On your own time, away from a federal building and federal property, you can, as long as it is not a solicitation again. If the candidate is saying, "I'm running low in the polls. I need more money for those advertisements. Please help me." If that's the candidate's message, you can't retweet that. No. That's a call for money, and we're not touching money. Next.

Not I. Someone else who emailed into the Q&A. I use my personal social media account to promote various cool USGS products, like volcano stuff, earthquakes stuff, water stuff, new reports and so on. Can I use my personal social media account to share my political views?

Ah. That's a good question. I think we touched on that just a little bit with my former...the description of be careful about your personal social media site because if you make it look like an official site, you could have problems.

In this case, if this employee is filling up her personal social media site with 90 percent of the content looks like USGS stuff, and you can't tell the difference, and they've got their official title and authority on there, then you could have transformed that site possibly into an official site from a Hatch Act perspective, and you would not want to put partisan political activity on there.

That's why I'm suggesting that you keep those sites separate. Keep your personal sites separate from your official work.

I think this is our last one. Impeachment. Why not wrap with that? Since this is a hot topic in the news, I have heard, it would be good for folks to understand what if any limits there are regarding discussing impeachment during work and outside of work. You got like two and a half minutes for that.

Two and a half minutes on impeachment. Impeachment. It is a big topic, an important topic. Let's make this very simple, and let's make this very, very clear as federal employees. Impeachment, talk of impeachment, discussion of impeachment can be...Communications about impeachment can be partisan political activity. It all depends on the context of things.

If in the federal workplace, you make a statement, "I think that the president should be impeached." If I made that statement outside of a training session here, of course, that is partisan political activity. Can you make that statement in the workplace? I think the president should be impeached. You're saying that to others.

In the workplace, if you're a supervisor, and your subordinates are there, huge problems there. That is partisan political activity. Can you talk about impeachment as a topic that, "Well, I don't think that what the president did constitutes an impeachable offense." You see the difference there? I don't think that what the president did constitutes an impeachable offense.

That's not a Hatch Act violation right there, but coming out and saying that you believe that a candidate for a political office should be impeached. What are you doing? Let's get back to basics. Is that a statement in support of or against a partisan political candidate party organization? It is. We need to be very careful about discussions of impeachment.

That's a big topic right now. It's going to be a big topic well into 2020. Let's be careful.

Let's wrap up. Americans expect and deserve executive branch employees to do their job and accomplish the missions of their agency free of partisan political activity. As I've said before, as federal employees, as DoI employees, we come to work for all Americans, not just red state Americans or blue state Americans.

We don't have the FBI or the Social Security Administration implementing and enforcing laws in Nebraska different than in New Hampshire. No, we deal with all Americans equitably, and we don't allow partisan political activity and impartially to infect our executive branch workplace.

I think the most important thing to understand about the Hatch Act is something that the US Supreme Court has stated, which is that, we do not want our public service as federal employees to be converted into corrupt political office or activities. We don't want that.

That's not the kind of nation we are. That's not the kind of government we want. That's not who we are as federal employees. That's not who we are as Americans. Thank you very much.

That's it for us. I will have this transcribed and put on the website as soon as possible. I appreciate all your time here. This has been yet another cool creative comms session. Hopefully we'll have another one in a month or two, and I'm going to look forward to that. Thanks all for your time.

Thank you.

[applause]

12/11/2019
Last edited 9/29/2021

I don't know if you've heard, but 2020 is likely to be a big year for partisan political activity.

True story: A while back, I was in a US Post Office when I spotted a worker behind the counter, wearing a campaign t-shirt for someone who was running in an upcoming election.

I was pretty sure that Feds weren't supposed to wear political t-shirts to work, but what was to be done? What if I tweeted about it? How about a post on my personal LinkedIn account, the account that's super-clear about where I work? Can I hang a political ball cap from my office door knob?

Fortunately, there's "An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities" (a.k.a. the Hatch Act). Also, there are folks who understand the nuances of the Hatch Act -- folks who we can ask for advice.

One of those people is Scott de la Vega, Interior's chief ethics official. Scott will share his expertise and answer questions in the Udall Building's Rachel Carson Room at 2pm December 3 -- and we'll webcast the event on DOI.gov for folks not in the building.

If you're in Udall/MIB, please don't clog the network -- just visit us. The Rachel Carson Room is just off the Bison Bistro.

When:
Tuesday, Dec 3, 2 pm EST (DC time)
Level:
Beginner
Webcast:
DOI.gov/events
Live & in-person:
Udall/MIB, Rachel Carson Room (downstairs, just off the Bison Bistro)
Registration:
None for the webcast -- but I would appreciate an email, letting me know if you plan to attend in-person.
Presenter:
Scott de la Vega

Scott currently serves as both Interior's Director of the Departmental Ethics Office and Designated Agency Ethics Official. Prior to joining us, he served in various legal positions at the White House over the course of two administrations, including as Ethics Counsel to the Vice President and the Office of White House Counsel, as well as Managing Counsel for Operations in the Executive Office of the President.